There will be foul language in this post.
Okay, I promise you now that this is not going to be a post where I cuss in every other sentence to prove my point. That’s not how swearing works. Curse words aren’t meant to be sprinkled in conversations like ticker tape on the streets of a parade. People who do that are the people who ruin cussing for the rest of us sailors, truck drivers and journalists (and that last group cusses a lot). Despite this, people assume that those of us who curse in public or in mixed company are in some way crass, rude or inconsiderate people. The truth is, we are wordsmiths.
I could point you in the direction of numerous studies that say swearing in moderation can help to reduce pain (though there is a habituation effect that makes repetition ineffective), questions of how swearing affects mental health in certain environments and even the pragmatics of swearing, and in linking those studies I just did. But that isn’t really what I want to address. What is important to me is the taboo and stigma that comes with the idea of speaking those dirty words aloud or worse, writing them down where the entire Internet will forever remember them.
There are times when you should not cuss. Children should not be cussed out, supervisors should only be cussed out on occasion (such as if they become too keen on you and aren’t acting very supervisor-ly) and those who are both faint of heart and slightly pretentious should not be subjected to swearing. Outside of those situations, there is rarely a time I can think of that warrants limiting speech in that way. When I said those who swear are wordsmiths, I meant it. Swears are words, slang like any other colloquial term. They mean something specific and should therefore be used accordingly. Sometimes I’m not just “really angry,” I’m “fucking pissed.” Sometimes he isn’t just a “jerk,” he’s a “monstrous asshole.” And sometimes, life isn’t just “unfair,” it’s “complete and utter bullshit.” That’s just how it goes. Each of those sentences contains pairings of words that conjure completely different images, and that’s the point. Limiting the words we say because we don’t want to offend people don’t help to get our point across. In fact, it does us the disservice by not letting us convey our true feelings. Swearing is honest. Swearing is poetry.
I do swear. Sometimes quite a lot. And I have been told it isn’t ladylike and it isn’t polite and a whole host of other things that are simply ridiculous. I am an adult woman, this is the 21st Century and if my feelings require an R-rated word to be conveyed properly, then it will be used. There are words I generally will not say, and I do not include slurs directed at any demographic as swears (they are a whole different animal in my opinion), but outside of that, why shouldn’t I swear?
The only restrictions that we really need on swearing are the ones we create for ourselves. Again, assuming we are all adult humans, we should know when we need to be having a conversation that requires a lot of cussing. The fact of the matter is that just because we have the freedom to curse when we please doesn’t mean we need to do it in a room full of small children. Discretion is completely individual, but those who don’t use it make the rest of us look bad.
I love swearing when I feel the need to swear. It helps me get my point across just as much as grabbing a thesaurus would. Sometimes the right words are also the “bad” words, but that doesn’t mean they should be reserved for bars and street corners at 3AM. It just means we as people need to make sure we think before we speak. Be honest with people and cuss when necessary. It’s probably good for you. And if it isn’t, what the hell? It’s still fun.